Naming: The name refers to its "isolated" position; likely related to Isolation Creek. Official name. (from peakfinder.com)
Ever since snowshoeing and hiking up Monola Peak in extremely strong winds and a fair amount of snow back in 2012 on November 18th, I had a trip filed away in the back of my mind that would entail both Isola and Monad Peaks to the south and west of Monola. After a stretch of incredible late fall weather in the Canadian Rockies which saw me bag around 7 peaks since the end of October, I was ready to give this trip a shot. Raf Kazmierczak was looking to hike up Monad Peak, so we agreed to team up for this one.
I met Raf at the 37th street parking area along Hwy 22 at the late hour of 07:30 and we enjoyed a nice chat (mostly about his successful ascent of Mount Bryce this past August) before arriving at the trailhead along the Livingstone River. Back in 2012 there was a nice bridge across the river, allowing us to drive a few kilometers up the road that parallels Isolation Creek on its north bank. Alas, the bridge was not there this time. I'm not sure if it's permanently gone thanks to the 2013 floods or if it's a seasonal bridge, but judging by the conditions around the crossing, I think it's best if you don't count on it being there. Raf and I weren't so easily dismayed by the lack of a bridge, however. :) There were two trucks and a hunter's camp set up on the far side of the Livingstone River, so we knew there had to be a pretty easy crossing for 4x4's and there was. Slightly downstream, we found a good crossing and Raf proceeded to drive across the river with no issues whatsoever. As we were scouting the river crossing, I had noticed two hikers heading up the road on the opposite side. They must have been the owners of the car parked on the near side and were likely the group Raf had told me would be on the same route as us this day.
Excellent! Avoiding wet feet was already worth it, but now that we were across, I encouraged Raf to keep driving! I knew we'd made it quite a way up the road back in 2012 and hoped we could at least knock a couple of km's off the boring approach road in the truck. The road was in excellent condition. I figured it wouldn't take long to catch up to the folks I'd seen hiking up the road, and sure enough! Soon we were pulling alongside Geoff and Lisa. We offered them a ride and they (literally) piled in the back of Raf's truck, on top of his bike, which was jammed in there. About 2.5km up the road, we arrived at the top of the same hill that stopped us driving further in 2012 and decided to stop. On hindsight it would be possible to drive about 1km further, but it was hardly worth it, considering the ascent slope of Isola was only about 500m further up the road anyway. After a brief discussion it was decided that Raf would bike up the road and take his time to the summit of Monad while Geoff, Lisa and myself would first bag Isola before joining him. Any decisions about tacking on Monola Peak would be dealt with later in the day.
[Hiking along the ATV road above Isolation Creek on our approach to Isola.]
It was pretty cool meeting Geoff and Lisa, I've been reading about their various Rockies exploits on Facebook for a while. Both of them are Kiwis, and we had a fascinating and very engaging discussion as we tramped our way up the fairly open forest on Isola's southeast slopes. It turns out that our discussion dove-tailed very nicely into the discussion the two of them had started on their drive to the mountains that morning, and yes, it did involve Donald Trump - but not as much as you'd think. We had much deeper and larger issues to discuss than an orange colored narcissist severely lacking a Tweet filter... ;)
[The first hour or so is this. Easy enough hiking in open forest.]
[In the trees, out of the wind it was very warm already in the morning. Geoff is in t-shirt and shorts!]
Isola is a hike to the summit. There is no scrambling whatsoever on the southeast slopes. There were tiny pockets of thicker forest but nothing to worry about. Geoff was optimistic in shorts, but even Lisa and I were in t-shirts until we arrived at more open slopes and started getting wind blasted from the west. Layers were donned and we continued up to the summit on the signature black rock that litters the peaks in this area. Views of Monola and Monad were pretty great - Monola was much larger than I remembered it and it certainly deserves a name. Cabin Ridge looked pretty sweet to the southwest as well.
[The signature dark rocks of the area as we approach the summit in strong, cool winds. Don't be fooled by Geoff's shorts - it's pretty chilly. :) Monola at far left and Monad at center. ++]
[Sentinel at center with Plateau at left and part of Hailstone Butte at right.]
[A scenic ridge to the northwest of Isola with Etherington in the distance.]
[Looking over the north ridge of Monad towards Mount Lyall (L) and Gass (R).]
[Looking over the pass between Monola (L) and Monad (R) towards Cyclamen Ridge in the foreground and The Elevators and Beehive Mountain in the distance.]
["Monola" might be an unofficial peak, but it certainly deserves to be named.]
[Mount Livingstone (L) and Coffin (Speke) Mountain (R) lie to the southeast. These were the starting point of a five peak day back in 2009 that started with Speke and ended with Windy Peak, out of sight to the left here.]
[Wietse and I completed a traverse from Hailstone Butte (C) to Sentinel Peak (L) back in 2007 on a very windy day in March.]
The wind was biting at the summit and we didn't linger long. I snapped a few panos and some close-ups of familiar peaks in the vicinity before we turned our attention to Monad and our traverse options towards it. The first order of the day was an easy scramble down the west ridge of Isola which allowed us to drop at least 300m in a matter of minutes. This was followed by a somewhat wandering route through cutblocks and thin forest towards the east face of Monad.
[Looking up the west ridge at Geoff starting the descent.]
[A few low cliff bands on the west ridge are rather toothless and easy scrambling.]
[Lisa enjoys the warm and easy hike down to tree line while Geoff goes for a run in the distance.]
[Geoff strikes a mountain warrior pose with the north ridge of Monad in the background.]
[Lisa and Geoff enjoying this gorgeous fall day in the dry ranges.]
[Looking back up the easy west ridge of Isola with interesting clouds above.]
[The hike from Isola to Monad Peak was a bit more involved than expected, but pretty straightforward. We have to drop down to the cutblock below before traversing slightly left again towards Monad. ++]
[The snow and ice on grass made for some slick conditions in places!]
[There are numerous cutblocks, cutlines and ATV trails in the area. We used them where it made sense, but didn't stick to anything "religiously". That was an inside joke.]
[Hiking towards Monad.]
[A nice view looking back at Isola Peak.]
[Geoff expertly leads us towards Monad.]
[Geoff mourns the loss of a faithful pole. The crazy Pol (i.e. Raf) is probably already at the summit of Monad at this point... ;)]
[Another desolate view back towards Isola from the cutblock.]
[The rolling terrain took us by surprise but wasn't terrible. This is the last drop towards Monad. Note the mirroring of the clouds with Monad's long ridge? We aimed for the shallow col between the two highpoints, just left of center. ++]
[Breaking through the easy cliffs along our way to Monad Peak.]
[We stumble upon another cutline. We never stayed on these for long, but they were nice to use once in a while.]
The rest of our trip can be read on the post for Monad Peak.
No difficulties on the hiking route. The hardest part of the day was driving across the Livingstone River on approach and not blowing over in the winds at the summit.